Victor Frankenstein review: a bloated exercise in opportunistic grave robbing

The latest retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic tale is a cobbled-together farrago of cod psychology and makeshift backstory

Victor Frankenstein
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Director: Paul McGuigan
Cert: 12A
Genre: Fantasy
Starring: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox, Charles Dance, Daniel Mays, Callum Turner
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins

I'll say this for Victor Frankenstein: it's better than last year's I, Frankenstein. Then again, if you threw random disinterred body parts at the screen you'd end up with something more watchable than that unhappy project. What we have here (I'm guessing) is an attempt to bring the personal dynamics of Sherlock to the much-filmed story of a man and his monster.

Daniel Radcliffe’s Igor – whose hunchback proves curable – has the same eyes-of-the audience blandness as the average Dr Watson. To say that James McAvoy is “channelling” Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character would be to indulge in near-legalistic sophistry.

His eccentric genius leads him to behave disgracefully at formal gatherings. He is forever slapping his head when happening upon one of many fantastic revelations. He races about the place as if trying to distract himself from haemorrhoids.

None of this “borrowing” (will that do, m’lud?) would matter much if the surrounding package were more attractive. Max Landis’s script cobbles together a farrago of cod psychology and makeshift backstory to prop up a plot that never finds any cohesive direction. We first meet Igor working as a misused clown in a circus. Victor discovers that the unfortunate fellow has been reading medicine in his spare time and invites him to collaborate in the doctor’s computer-generated, steampunk garret.


The story then flails in all directions – Jessica Brown Findlay is a puzzling love interest; Andrew Scott is a religious copper; Charles Dance is Victor's unforgiving father – before finally encountering a square-headed creature that looks more like Dave Prowse in The Horror of Frankenstein than the classic Boris Karloff incarnation.

To be fair, there are some nice touches. An early ape experiment is acceptably horrible. The Victorian ambience is lavishly realised.

But Victor Frankenstein ultimately comes across as a bloated exercise in (apologies) opportunistic grave robbing. Add the film to the disturbingly long list of dreadful adaptations of a source that deserves better.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist